High Stakes: Episode 2

As soon as Neal sits down, he whips out his Blackberry, or as he calls it, “Crack-berry.”  He checks through his e-mails within an instant, and snaps his head back up with a smile.
“My Blackberry is my best friend,” he shrugs.

Neal’s relationship with his beloved Blackberry encompasses the one he would like to have with the college he attends next year: something that connects him socially and helps him make contacts as a hopeful-businessman.  But Neal really sees those two preferences as one in the same.

“Anything you do, it’s about who you know,” he says. “It’s not about being the smartest person at Harvard-Westlake.”

Neal, a self-described “all around happy kid,” is applying to schools with strong business programs and a thriving social scene that are near cities where he could easily get involved with business. 

He feels that what sets him apart is his drive for business, clear sense of career path and “my personality, of course,” he says. His first choice is the University of Southern California,  closely followed by Boston College. 

USC made it to the top of his list since he feels tied to Los Angeles after extensive internship experience during the summers.

“I’ve made a lot of connections in L.A.,” he says.  “It’s where I’m rooted.”

His other factors in determining USC as his top choice were the “good sports, academics, business school and,” he adds with a smirk, “the women of course.”

A highly social atmosphere is essential to him for his “work hard, play hard” mentality.

He feels that schools such as University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova meet this need.  Neal acknowledges that Penn is considered to be more selective than USC, but has not been swayed by the prestige of the Ivy League. 

In fact, in some ways he sees it as negative, noting he feels the workload might be too intense. 

“I also kind of need the sun,” he laughs.

He has not yet visited Penn, but will soon take a trip to visit it and Lehigh, a school he is unsure about applying to since it is more isolated. 

For Neal, college is all about location, location, location.

“I’m only considering Michigan because of the business program,” he says. “But I don’t really like the Midwest.”

His backups, Boston University and NYU, were selected primarily because of their central location in major cities.

Neal turned in paperwork this weekend confirming he will be applying to USC come January and is almost done with his application.  He will then find out in April whether he has been accepted.

Neal says he has not been afflicted by the stress that he knows should come with the application process.

“I’m excited for college,” he says. “After this, I feel like it’s easy street.”

And no matter what happens come April, he plans to keep smiling.  

“Like I said, I’m a happy guy.  They usually say take the good with the bad, but I just leave the bad and take the good.”